Right now I work/volunteer with children of various ages. I am about to start a new chapter in my life where I will no longer be around kids frequently. This has caused me to think about my involvement with them a little bit.
For the past two years, I taught at a school with low-income kids. I did this on purpose. I didn't want to teach rich kids for a variety of reasons. The main reason being that their parents tend to be overbearing and too involved. As a teacher, this can be intimidating and stressful. I also think wealthier kids often have many people in their life to care for them while many lower income kids have single parent families or parents who have two or three jobs to make ends meet. These kids need positive adult role models in their lives.
Despite all my reasons for wanting to teach low income students, I have decided that if I come back to teaching one day, I would prefer not to be at a low-income school. This may sound strange given my heart for these kids, but I found a lot of things about teaching at a low-income school to be very frustrating.
Low-income schools are expected to achieve the same passing rate on standardized tests as their higher income peers. This is fairly unrealistic given the struggles these kids face and the home environments they come from. I had kids whose siblings were in jail, dads were in jail or even moms were in jail. One kid's older brother told him a story about being involved in a high speed chase with the cops and having to decide if he wanted to live or die. Who tells this to an 8 year old? Some of the mothers of kids in my class were 14 or 15 when they had them. Some of the kids have been taking away from their families by CPS. Most live in single parent households and several live with relatives other than their parents. Some have been abused emotionally, physically and sexually. They've had some pretty rough things happen to them in their short lives.
All this is what made me want to work with them in the first place; to love them and take care of them in a way they deserve. Unfortunately, being a teacher didn't let me help them the way I would of liked. It may have just been my particular school but I have a feeling that it is a problem in a lot of low income schools. There is so much pressure to get them to pass the tests, that their feelings and emotional well-being are not taken into account. I felt like I had all these hurting kids but I couldn't do much about it since I had to spend so much time cramming for a test. Our school doesn't have a counselor who they can talk about their problems with. It's really a shame. If I go back to teaching, I've thought about becoming a counselor. Then I could help these hurting kids instead of cramming them for a test.
With Young Life I was able to be more of a counselor/mentor/friend to my high school students. I could listen to their problems and try to help them through situations that were achingly similar to those experienced by my third graders. I loved being able to be there for them in the hard times and I wish I could have done as much for the kids in my class. I hope they knew how much I cared.
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